After registering a sack and three total tackles against the Green Bay Packers in the season opener, Minnesota outside linebacker Danielle Hunter looked well on his way to repeating his early-season success from a year ago.
But Hunter recorded no sacks in the next three games. His seven quarterback hurries through the Vikings first four games are down from five sacks and 16 hurries at the same point last season.
Minnesota Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell said there's usually an early adjustment period when switching from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 scheme.
"Every guy that's ever made that transition, this first month looks a lot like that. It's pretty normal," Donatell said Thursday. "There's a getting used to this role."
View the best photos of Vikings DE Danielle Hunter from the 2021 season.
Despite the slow start, Joe Nelson of Sports Illustrated believes a breakout game from Hunter is on the horizon.
Nelson said Hunter will face Chicago right tackle Larry Borom on Sunday, who is 25th in pass blocking rankings according to Pro Football Focus. Nelson wrote:
Hunter is going to test Borom's mettle.
As a rookie, Borom was on the field for 82 snaps in Week 17 against the Vikings and … he allowed seven pressures that day, including two sacks, one hit and four hurries, according to PFF.
After squaring off against Green Bay's Royce Newman, who was filling in for Elgton Jenkins, in Week 1, Hunter's opponents on the offensive line have been much tougher. Philadelphia's Lane Johnson is ranked first in PFF's rankings, while Detroit's Penei Sewell is 23rd and New Orleans' Ryan Ramczyk is 10th.
Nelson added the rest of the season is primed for success for Hunter.
Hunter is scheduled to face four right tackles ranked in the Top 25 by PFF, but the rest are ranked 27th or lower. Here's the full list starting with Week 6 against Miami:
Week 6 at Miami: Greg Little – 61st (last)
Week 8 vs. Arizona: Kelvin Beachum – 19th
Week 9 at Washington: Sam Cosmi – 32nd
Week 10 at Buffalo: Spencer Brown – 49th
Week 11 vs. Dallas: Terence Steele – 11th
Week 12 vs. New England: Isaiah Wynn – 36th
Week 13 vs. N.Y. Jets: Max Mitchell – 55th
Week 14 at Detroit: Sewell – 23rd
Week 15 vs. Indianapolis: Braden Smith – 27th
Week 16 vs. N.Y. Giants: Evan Neal – 56th
Week 17 at Green Bay: Jenkins – 53rd
Week 18 at Chicago: Borom – 25th
Vikings Dalvin Cook 11th in RB Index for Week 5
Sunday's game between the Vikings and the Bears could result in a battle of the backfields, led by Minnesota's Dalvin Cook and Chicago's Khalil Herbert.
Former NFL running back and current NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew looks at all 32 teams' running backs and ranks his Top 15 each week. Going into Week 5, Jones-Drew ranked Cook 11th on the list. He wrote:
It was a quiet week for Cook, who played in London for the first time in his career. The Vikings offense relied much more on the pass game against the Saints, but on Sunday, they host the Bears. I expect Cook to take advantage of the worst run defense in the NFL.
Through four games, Cook has recorded 279 rushing yards on 63 attempts and a touchdown. He also has nine receptions for 47 yards.
Jones-Drew listed Herbert three spots higher than Cook at No. 8.
In the absence of David Montgomery, Herbert has been above average in all aspects. He had 101 total yards against the Giants and has the opportunity to continue his productive campaign this week against the Vikings, who have given up the second-most rushing touchdowns (seven).
Herbert has run for 317 yards on 52 carries and three touchdowns this season. He has added five catches for 37 yards as well.